Wednesday, January 3, 2018

books of 2017

I read more books this year. I somewhat arbitrarily decided that this should be the year I read more sci-fi, so I read as many Isaac Asimov books as I could get my hands on until I realized that I hated the Foundation series. I love Robots, hate Foundation. I don't know what that says about me, but there you go. Here's what else I read:

Non-fiction
Mormon Feminism edited by Joanna Brooks, Rachel Hunt Steenblik, and Hannah Wheelwright
The God Who Weeps by Terryl and Fiona Givens
I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong
An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield
Quiet by Susan Cain

Books I Felt Bad About Not Liking That Much
Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel
Persuasion by Jane Austen
The Orphan Keeper by Camron Wright
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Delightful Re-reads
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

I Went through an Asimov Phase
The Complete Robot by Isaac Asimov
The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov
The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov
Robots and Empire by Isaac Asimov
Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Forward the Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Yay Sci-fi Short Stories!
Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu

Yep, Still Obsessed with Brandon Sanderson
Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson
Secret History by Brandon Sanderson
Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson
Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

Odds and Ends
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Chemistry by Weike Wang
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (this was really lovely–you should read it)
West with the Night by Beryl Markham
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Favorite Books (Series) of 2017
The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin
Death's End by Liu Cixin

I loved The Three-Body Problem et al. It's a Chinese sci-fi series that is beautiful, and haunting, and so, so creative. By far the most interesting thing I read all year (and I read Stories of Your Life and Others, so that's saying something!). Highly recommended.

My goal for 2018 is to read 37 books, raising the bar by one book. Any book suggestions to help me get there? What was the best thing you read in 2017?

Here's what I read in 2016.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2017 highlights

January: Women's March in Philadelphia
This photo quality is terrible, but I love it because our regional church women's leadership is in it with us (Stake YW Pres and Relief Society Pres), and you can see the temple spire in the background. 

 April: Thesis defense!

April: Trip to LA! Met perfect baby niece Linden for the first time
Also ate a lot of good donuts and ice cream, visited a magical bookstore (hi, The Last Bookstore), and got to see the Broad. Met up with old BYU chemistry friend Naomi and my cousin Nick.

 May: PhD Graduation
Aaron's mom came out to celebrate with us, and we found a new favorite restaurant (Talula's Garden).

June: Roadtrip to North Carolina
Scoped things out to see if we wanted to move there (we did! we are!)

July: Trip to San Francisco and Sea Ranch
Sea Ranch is so beautiful it's unreal. Also, there are SEALS!

July: Saw Hamilton with my aunt Jenny
(10/10, would recommend)


October: Seminar at BYU & weekend in Seattle
I got to give my first ever "real" research seminar while at BYU, and we got to meet up with my beloved Bowen roomies Kristen and Amanda in Seattle.

 November: Surprised Aaron's family by showing up in Utah for Thanksgiving
(not our dog)

 November: Stayed with my cousin Sasha for a materials science conference in Boston
Also got to meet up with former labmate and dear friend Yanfei for ramen.

 December: Christmas in Utah with my family
MOA, Brick Oven, donut-making, Quiplash-playing ensued.

In spite of the terrible state of American politics, it turns out my personal 2017 was actually fantastic. I got to do/see/accomplish a lot of things I've wanted to do for a long time, and I got to spend my time with many of my favorite people.

Here's to an even better 2018!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

bull city, here we come!


I'm pretty sure this terrible phone picture was taken on Aaron's very first day of residency. Look at that cute physician tag on his ID and his sweet, optimistic face! It's been a long 2.5 years since, full of demoralizing weeks and terrible hours (my thoughts on medical training: it's legal hazing), and we can't wait for it to be over. And now we know where we'll be going when it finally ends:

NORTH CAROLINA! 
He's going to be a Duke Blue Devil!

We are psyched at the prospect of affordable housing, lots of job opportunities for yours truly, and the possibility of having a dog. See you in June, NC!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

all my heroes are little girls

Like this paragon of magnificent confidence (and glasses!):

Jessica, who loves everything about her life:
(I think I've linked to this before, it's still just as great 7+ years later)

And this supposed third grader, poet extraordinaire:

I mean: I am a rich pie strong with knowledge. I will not be eaten. 
I AM HERE FOR THIS. All hail our eight-year-old queen!

Friday, September 29, 2017

USDA certified lean!!!

Let's pretend I'm a successful lifestyle blog that posts weekly link roundups, instead of posting only when momentous life events happen, shall we?

Here we go!

Food you should make:

I have made this farro dish twice now, and it is SO good. It has so few ingredients that I was skeptical it was going to taste good, but it's really fantastic. The best part is, it's all cooked in one pan and is mostly hands-off. Worth buying farro for! (though I'm sure you could get this to work with another grain if you adjusted the water/cooking time)

This zucchini parmesan is also great.

Marbled banana bread is my new favorite banana bread. Apologies to my old favorite recipe from Cook's Illustrated, but you're just too much of a pain to make in comparison, and you're not half chocolate.

Song you should listen to:

The Man by The Killers  I can't get it out of my head.

Quote you should read:

“God bless the great question askers, the great seekers for righteousness, the great wanters of good things. I, your grandfather, don’t wish you some easy success. But I do wish for you to have wants that make you dress before dawn, or cross burning deserts, or wrestle with God until you get that good blessing. What an interesting life there is ahead for the wanters, not only here and now but a thousand worlds from here!"

found here, thanks to someone sharing in church recently

I'm looking forward to watching General Conference this weekend (okay how great were the talks at the women's session? I think I want to be Sharon Eubank) and attempting these chocolate tahini challah buns.

Whew, did I fit enough links to Smitten Kitchen in this post? Am I going to her book signing in less than 2 months? You can never have enough and YES. Happy FRIDAY YOU GUYS!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

katie is postdoc'ing

I've been a postdoc for two months now. A postdoc is someone who keeps doing research as a weird in between trainee and independent scientist for very little money considering the number of years you've spent in school. I work on a collaboration between three professors in bioengineering, chemical engineering, and radiology. I moved over two buildings from the chemistry building so my life has actually changed very little compared to being a grad student, other than the nagging despair of I'm never going to graduate is gone. Yay graduation! Graduation for everyone!

So far, here are the best perks of the job: 

1) I can check out library books for a full year. I currently have four books checked out that I don't have to return until 2018, which sounds a lot farther away than next year somehow. Granted, I had several books checked out for almost 5 years while a grad student because apparently there's no limit on the number of times you can renew them, but still. Now I don't have to renew as often! 

2) My university ID card says faculty! This is completely inaccurate but still cool to see. 

3) Health insurance + vision insurance + dental insurance! I got health insurance as a grad student (which was wonderful! go to grad school in the sciences, they'll pay you a stipend and give you insurance, all you have to do is work 60+ h/week) but no dental or vision. Now I can go to the dentist FOR FREE. Amazing.

4) I get to learn about a bunch of new fields, including fluid mechanics, microfluidic fabrication, ultrasound physics, photoacoustic physics (this is about light turning into sound, craaazy), mechanical properties of materials, and expression/purification of a new protein (oleosin! it comes from sunflowers). After 6 years of thinking about ferritin non-stop, it feels great to switch gears.

So, for now, I'll embrace this in between time and continue to enjoy the benefits of interlibrary loans. Maybe I'll even figure out what to do next. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

rug update

I got a rug [finally]!

It sort of looks like my coffee table is a meteor that dropped out of the sky and smashed into my living room floor, but I like it. I suppose it fits with the John Glenn portrait and rocket photograph on the wall. It's also way better sized for the room than the last rug was, and that in and of itself has been a major upgrade.

(sorry, crappy phone pic)

It is by far the craziest thing in my house, and it makes me happy every time I walk into the room. Can't ask for much more than that, now can you?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

i'm useless in an emergency, but i am a doctor


It's been almost two months since I defended my Ph.D., and I still get a thrill out of being called Dr. Pulsipher. I HAVE A DOCTORATE DEGREE. I can't get over it. Such a momentous occasion deserves an excruciatingly long blog post, so here you go!

My defense consisted of two parts: a public, hour-long presentation describing the research I've done over the course of grad school, followed by a closed-door questioning session with only my advisor and dissertation committee (three professors who are not my advisor) present. 

I was most nervous for my presentation, but not because I was worried it wouldn't be good enough to earn my degree. If your advisor lets you get to this point the degree is more or less guaranteed, barring some major display of incompetence on your part during your committee's examination afterward. The presentation is all about showing off what you've done and impressing people. It's a performance. And I was nervous I was going to let myself down. Six years of hard work only to culminate in a lackluster showing is not how I wanted things to end. I wanted to kill it.

So, I put all of my competitive ballroom training to work: practice, practice, practice. Chose an outfit strategically. Use pump up music effectively. Say lots of prayers.

My parents and youngest sister all flew in the night before. They were an immense help in the strategic outfit choosing and the pump up music playing. We dance partied to "Party in the USA" and "Run the World" both the night before and the morning of to get appropriately psyched up. Aaron was originally going to have to work the night before and then walk across the street to the chemistry building the morning of and try to stay awake during my presentation. But! He miraculously arranged to have the night off and surprised me by showing up at home at 10 pm, ready to sleep through the night and actually be awake for my defense. 

I was worried that no one beyond my family and lab group was going to show up that morning since it started at 8:45 am, but people came! Friends from other labs, friends from church, department staff, etc. were all there to be supportive. Staring at those friendly faces made it a lot easier to go through my presentation, even when the red color cut out of the projector completely and 75% of my slides were shades of barely distinguishable blue, yellow, and gray (so much for my carefully chosen jewel tone color scheme). I thanked lots of people at the end and managed to not trip over too many words. I also did not end by saying "in the name of Jesus Christ, amen," which I was nervous I was going to accidentally do. When I finished, the audience had questions, which is always a good sign after a presentation. I could answer all of them, with varying degrees of competence but with lots of faked confidence thanks to power blazer + very high heels.  

I think I killed it. 

I mean, there was way too much adrenaline running through my system to be at all objective, but I felt really great afterward. I said everything I wanted to say, and I said it about as clearly as I think I was capable. The questioning period with my committee was pretty short and more like a discussion than a grilling session. They asked me about the broader implications of my work (what are the disadvantages to this system? how practical would this be commercially?) and a few clarifying questions about some of the data in my presentation that I moved through more quickly. All of my forms got the necessary signatures and that was that: Dr. Pulsipher became reality. 

I know I didn't really blog much about grad school (other than complaining about it in passing), but it was long and difficult. The actual day to day work was not all that bad for me, I wasn't spending 14 hours a day in lab or staying until 2 am. But spending six years of your life working on a problem that's not particularly well-defined, that no one knows the answer to, and without any definitive end in sight is tough. I thrive on structure, rules, and clear expectations and grad school doesn't really have...any of those. It's also often difficult to convince yourself that what you are doing matters or will lead anywhere. Most of my experiments and mini-projects were failures (true for pretty much any scientist), and I still don't know why a lot of them failed! For six years, I ingrained skepticism and second guessed everything: is this a real result? Did this experiment not work because this is something new I've learned about the world, or did it not work because I screwed something up in the procedure? There is always something that you forgot to consider or something you should have been more rigorous about, and frankly, dealing with that for so long was exhausting. After my defense, I just wanted to lie on my living room floor and cry tears of relief for a week. (Instead, my lab group threw me a lunch party, my family and I went out to a nice dinner, and then I ran away to visit my sister in LA, which were all much less depressing.) 

In the end, it all worked out. I showed up every morning in lab and somehow all of those small, marginally progressive days added up to a Ph.D. If I can do that, lemme tell you, you can do anything. 

Love, the newly minted Dr. Pulsipher